STEPHENVILLE There’s a real sense of change in the air for the boys from an airport town.
After losing eight consecutive games to start the Central/West Junior Hockey League season, the Stephenville Junior Jets (3-9-0) have had their lineup strengthened by new arrivals and have posted a 3-1 record in their last four contests.
Now, as they hit the road to face the league-leading Bishop’s Falls Express (11-3-0), even more help is on the way.
Four defencemen — Chris Dohaney, Chris Cooze, Josh St. Croix and Adam Greene — will be suiting up this weekend for the two-game set at Pat O’Reilly Memorial Stadium in Bishop’s Falls.
“It’s going to be our strongest lineup all year,” said coach and general manager Ron Dobbin. “All four of these guys can play hockey, no doubt.”
The only conceivable problem would be continuity. The Jets haven’t iced the same lineup for more than two games this season, but Dobbin said it’s a non-issue.
“The guys are incredible,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where you come in from, if you’re on the team, you’re one of them. It’s incredible chemistry.”
During the Jets’ last two games — a 10-6 win and a 5-1 loss against the Express in Stephenville — Dobbin believes he discovered a killer connection offensively with seven-goal man Josh White, along with Josh Walsh and Dylan Noseworthy.
Or, actually, rediscovered may be more accurate.
“They played together as kids,” said Dobbin. “We put them together and all of a sudden they just fit and they scored all 10 goals for us (on Jan. 13).”
With the defence bolstered and the offence putting up strong numbers as of late, the job of goaltenders Cody Blanchard and Stephen Hancock has gotten a lot easier. During the first eight losses of the season, not many would have volunteered to don the pads for the team, but now it’s a different story.
“They’re smiling for a change,” Dobbin quipped.
The league playoffs are a little over a month away and the Veitch Memorial provincial junior championship — hosted this year by Stephenville — will follow, which means everything is happening for the Junior Jets at a pretty good time.
“They’re peaking at the right time,” said Dobbin. “We’ve got the firepower up front and now we’ve got the defence too.”
Another dangling carrot for the club is that with two victories this weekend, they will have pulled themselves into a near neck-and-neck situation with the Port aux Basques Junior Mariners (6-8-0).
“They know that,” Dobbin said. “They’re tired of being at the bottom, they want to be first or second.
“At least then, when they’re hosting the Veitch, they know they’re not the bottom team.”
The Express host the Jets 8 p.m. Saturday night and 1:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon.